The city of Fort Worth’s affordable housing plan unanimously sailed through City Council Oct. 17 after strong opposition from some homeowners previously delayed its vote.
The long-awaited housing strategy plan had faced a sudden pushback from critics who took issue in September with the report’s endorsement of accessory dwelling units or in-law suites.
The plan highlighted the increasing severity of cost-burdened families across the city and in specific neighborhoods. It also laid out some recommendations on how to tackle and close the affordable housing gap.
Residents and affordable housing advocates urged council members to approve the plan amid a growing housing affordability crisis that has gripped not only Fort Worth but the state of Texas.
Michelle Kennedy, senior director of advocacy and government relations for Trinity Habitat for Humanity, said the organization has done everything it can as an affordable housing provider and that it’s time for the city to step up and do its part.
“We have done everything that has been asked of us by the city, by council, by the communities. And yet, we still find ourselves up against the wall when it comes to affordability,” Kennedy said. “It’s time for you guys to come alongside us and do something, and this plan provides that opportunity.”
Fort Worth business owner and arts organizer Wesley Kirk said this vote will open the door for more variety of housing options, which will ensure the city thrives.
For Kirk, adopting the plan is just a small step and urged council to take a “bold leap” by actually implementing some of the recommendations.
“The answer isn’t to keep spreading out further and farther. People are desperate to live near the urban core. The answer isn’t to leave it up to the market. The market has already failed us,” Kirk said. “The answer is to get smarter with how we use the land that we have now and make it easy to provide what people are desperate for.”
At past meetings, homeowners opposed to accessory dwelling units said they were concerned with the increased density accessory dwelling units would bring to their neighborhoods.
Several housing advocates also signed and sent a letter to the council.
No residents opposing the plan spoke at the Oct. 17 meeting.
The new resolution tries to ease concerns by noting that adopting the housing plan does not mean the city of Fort Worth will commit funds or implement any policies that affect the development of housing at this time. Instead, it’s more of a roadmap.
Mayor Mattie Parker thanked Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa and the Neighborhood Services Department for working with residents who had concerns about the plan.
City staff is already exploring several of the recommendations laid out in the plan. This includes creating a land bank, a community land trust, amending the zoning code to bring more “missing middle housing,” as well as incentivizing the building of affordable housing.
Editor’s note: This story was updated Oct. 19 to add the letter of support from housing advocates. It was updated Oct. 23 to clarify Wesley Kirk’s views of the plan and what actions City Council should take next.
Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.